Oregon to Expand Medicaid Coverage Under New Federal Agreement

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By Lynne Terry

Under a new agreement, the federal government will give Oregon $1.1 billion to guarantee continued free health care coverage to tens of thousands of young children in households with low incomes and offer wider coverage to low-income young adults, especially those with special needs.

The agreement, announced Wednesday in a conference call with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, also includes expanding Medicaid coverage to include housing and food support.

The social services help means Medicaid in Oregon will pay recipients for rent, utilities and other housing needs for up to six months; provide help with housing applications, moving and eviction prevention and assign a case manager to coordinate services. The Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid, will also provide cooking and nutrition classes, food boxes, medically-appropriate prepared meals and help getting federal food benefits.

In addition, Medicaid in Oregon will pay for air conditioners prior to a heat wave, air filters when wildfire smoke clogs the air and generators during extreme cold events. Medicaid providers in Oregon have already done this, but the agreement means coverage will be expanded, officials said.

Both Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Brown called the agreement groundbreaking.

“Keeping the young children continuously enrolled in Medicaid up to the age of 6 to prevent gaps in coverage regardless of changes in their financial circumstances is a paradigm shift,” Brown said during the call. “We’re going to be the first state in the country to do this.”

The Oregon Health Authority said it expects to include an additional 9,050 children under 6 to the Oregon Health Plan by July 1, 2023. By July 1,2026, it expects to have an additional 51,400 children covered. Currently, 508,000 Oregonians under 21 years old are covered by Medicaid, said Liz Gharst, an Oregon Health Authority spokesperson.

The Oregon Health Plan offers free physical, mental and dental care coverage to adults earning about $1,550 a month or about $3,100 for a family of four. Children in a single parent household earning nearly $3,500 or those in a four-person household earning nearly $6,700 a month qualify for state and federal coverage.

About two-thirds of Medicaid is paid by the federal government, and the rest is paid by the state.

Under the agreement, the federal government will pay $1.1 billion to Oregon to expand benefits. The state estimates the new coverage will cost Oregon nearly $500,000 in money from the general fund through June 30, 2027.

For the complete story, see the Oregon Capital Chronicle.